State House passes bump stock ban

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OLYMPIA — The state House voted to ban bump stocks, a stock attachment that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire in rapid succession.

It had been uncertain for weeks whether Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, would allow House Democrats to vote on the measure so soon before elections. Chopp indicated repeatedly to reporters that the measure would only move forward if it had bipartisan support.

The measure will go back to the Senate, which has already voted to enact the ban, because an amendment was attached to the bill.

Republican lawmakers sought a total of 10 amendments, all but one of which was rejected. Among the rejected amendments were exemptions to the ban for disabled gun owners or veterans.

“A bump fire stock was not devised or developed to be any type of automatic fire weapon,” said Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick. “As we heard in committee, a bump fire stock was in fact designed for people who have a disability with their hand.”

Slide Fire, which designed the first commercially available bump stocks, indicated to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 2010 that the device “is intended to assist persons whose hands have limited mobility to ‘bump-fire’ an AR-15 type rifle.”

There is no mention of disabilities on the Texas-based company’s website, though the word freedom is used repeatedly. A banner at the top of the company’s homepage advertises that their product allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire in rapid succession accurately.

Another proposed amendment would have narrowed the legislation to only criminalize use of the device when used in the commission of another crime, and yet another would have allowed for law enforcement officers to possess the devices. Both amendments failed by a two votes, the margin of the Democratic majority.

The single amendment ultimately attached to the bill would create a buyback program for bump stocks turned in to the state before July 1, 2019, paying up to $150 for each device. Bump stocks typically cost between $130 and $330.

An overarching point of contention for Republicans who spoke in opposition to the bill was the threat of weapon confiscation.

“Never, never, never in the United States of America, especially in Washington state, can we allow for the confiscation of weapons,” Klippert said on the House floor.

Central Washington lawmakers felt the same.

“In the 200 year history of this country, we usually don’t let armed officials go in somebody’s home to confiscate anything,” Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, said in an interview with the Columbia Basin Herald.

The final vote was 56-41. Every legislator from the Columbia Basin-area voted against the measure, though some might have changed their votes if Democrats had shown more compromise.

“I think I could have supported the bill if [Democrats] accepted some of the amendments that would have protected the rights of veterans, the disabled and law enforcement officers,” Manweller said.

Still, Manweller is uncertain how effective the legislation will be at protecting the state’s children and said that his school reporting bill, which has faltered repeatedly in a Democrat-controlled House, would have done more.

“Sometimes I think that symbolism trumps substance around this place,” Manweller said. “I think this is a very symbolic bill that will make people feel better about themselves but won’t actually save lives.”

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